Noah Schnapp was missing for most of the first season on “Stranger Things.” In fact, the disappearance of his character Will Byers into the “Upside Down” world was the key plot point for that entire group of episodes. But in the second season on Netflix, he was back among his friends and mother (Winona Ryder), although still experiencing major side effects.
He and the cast for the drama show won at the Screen Actors Guild Awards last January, and they are competing again in a few weeks. Gold Derby senior editors Rob Licuria and Matt Noble hosted a webchat with Schnapp before SAG nominations were announced. Watch that video above or read the complete interview transcript below.
Gold Derby (Matt Noble): Noah Schnapp, you had a real breakout season on “Stranger Things” for Season 2. Season 1 you were missing for most of it so it was hard for you to do too much. What was the difference for you in coming back to Season 2 where you had a much bigger role?
Noah Schnapp: It was also much more relaxed and there wasn’t as much security on set but this season, when we were filming Season 2, it was more pressure to get a good season obviously and I had very different role in Season 2. I definitely had a lot more fun filming Season 2.
Gold Derby (Rob Licuria): Whenever I look at Will, I just think, “Jeez, this kid has had so much do.” There’s a lot of dark moments that you’ve had to deal with. How did you prepare for, for example, when Will’s being possessed by the monster? It went to a really dark place. How did you prepare for that kind of scene?
NS: Yeah, the scene where I’m in the field and it’s going in me?
GD (Rob): Yeah.
NS: That was such a hard scene to film. When they filmed the scene, there’s nothing there, they’re not gonna put a fake monster in the sky. So it was just a big green screen and I had to imagine that there’s this big terrifying monster coming after me, and it was so hard to wrap my mind around that, so I had to imagine that. This was Will’s moment in the season to stand up for himself and be courageous and this is not like Will. Will’s usually the quiet kid. He doesn’t talk too much and in this scene he’s standing up for himself and it was a big scene for Will and for me as well, so I definitely had to prepare for it a lot. I did a lot of research on stories about kids getting possessed and stuff and things about that. I thought, “If he’s taking me over, he’s coming in my mind so I have to think about what it feels like.” It was hard. I had to make it up a little by myself and I thought about what it feels like.
GD (Matt): And Noah, what was the biggest challenge for you as an actor this season?
NS: I had a few big challenges this season. There’s a few. The first is the scene that I had to do probably with Winona, I think it was Episode 3, where I was talking to her about what I saw in the field and it was really emotional. And before that I’d never really done a scene like that. So when I heard the scene was coming up I was really nervous because I didn’t know what to expect or how to bring out those emotions so I remember texting Winona [Ryder], ‘cause I know she’s done that all in Season 1 and I asked her, “How do you do it? I need advice!” I remember asking Sean Astin, too, and they both told me not to push it. “If it doesn’t come don’t force it.” They also told me you really have to put yourself in a really emotional state to access those emotions so I made myself really let go and relaxed and not tense and it was very easy for me to be able to cry in that scene and feel what Will was feeling, so I put myself in his shoes. And then I just thought, “What would it feel like to be telling your mom about a night like that?” It was a hard scene to film and I remember the first few takes we were doing, they were good takes but they weren’t great and I remember on the fifth or sixth take we were in the middle of the scene and Shawn Levy, who was directing the scene, he saw me building up my emotion and he knew that I could get it in the next take so we restarted the scene and we did it all in that next take and the whole scene was from that one take and it was prefect. It was probably also my most favorite scene to film ‘cause I felt so proud of it and good about that scene after I finished it. Also very relieved.
GD (Rob): Yeah, I can imagine. With a lot of younger actors, you usually are in a lot of scenes with other actors who are playing your parents or someone who is an older person so I could imagine that you would actually form quite a great connection and bond with that other actor because of that dynamic and I’m wondering, what has the connection been like with Winona given that she plays Will’s mom on the show? Did you have that special bond? Did it grow over Season 2 because you got to work more together?
NS: Yes, for sure. She’s one of the sweetest I’ve ever known. My family and her are very close and I’ve said this so many times but she’s always watching out for me with anything and she’s so helpful. I’m so glad that I got to work off of Winona because when you get to work off of a really great actor, it’s so much easier to be able to act great yourself as an actor, just because having someone real to bounce off of it makes it so much better and I’m so glad I got to work with her. She was always helping me, always taking care of me. She’s like my second mother. Anything I ask for she always was there for it. I love Winona.
GD (Matt): There’s so many different reasons why people are drawn to “Stranger Things.” For you, Noah, what do you think is the most special thing about the show and draws you in the most to the stories?
NS: There’s definitely a few reasons, I think. Obviously one of the major reasons is because the show is set in the ‘80s. The set designer and the Duffers they’re just genius of how they set up the whole thing because it’s so authentic and it’s so real and so many people can feel that time when they’re watching the show. My dad always tells me how everything in the show he had and I think a lot of people love that about the show. And then there’s the characters who are so relatable. They’re very real and authentic and they’re not fake. It’s a real show that’s based off of real life and anyone can relate to it. For example, the hero is not always a perfect hero who has no flaws or anything. David Harbour, who plays Hopper, is a hero on the show. He still has his flaws, he’s a bit overweight, but it makes it authentic and relatable in a way so I love that about the show, that it’s so real.
GD (Rob): I noticed on Twitter the other day that you recently posted a photo of you winning a $100 bet with the Duffers and I’m sure you’ve probably discussed this a couple of times, but for people who aren’t aware, what was the scene that you guessed? Take us through what the bet was about and why you won and how good it felt to have that 100 bucks from the creators of the show.
NS: I think it was Millie [Bobby Brown] also who made a bet with the Duffers but it was for 50 bucks, so I’m proud that I actually won $100 from the directors of the show. It’s a thing to be proud of. But the bet was… I think I remember I was in the hospital and I think it was also because they felt bad for me but I was in the hospital and they told me, “Noah, we’ll give you 100 bucks.” I forget how it came up but we were talking. Usually I tell the story like, “I’m not alone to talk about it because it’s a spoiler,” but now the season’s out. We made a bet if Will was gonna get possessed or not in the season, and they told me one day at lunch the tank Millie was in in Season 1, they said they were thinking about doing something with that in Season 2 and this is off the top of her being very excited to go in that tank and I guess it never happened and they changed that. It was a cool thing. I think they changed it.
GD (Matt): Talk about how your dad says that all the stuff that he had in the ‘80s he sees in the show. What’s the thing that you most wish your childhood had from the ‘80s from your experience on “Stranger Things?”
NS: Something that I want from the ‘80s? I love the ’80s just because there’s no phones. No one hides behind phones in the ‘80s. Everything’s in person, and I love that because I remember when I was younger I was dying for a phone and I asked my mom everyday, “Mom can I have a phone? Mom can I have a phone?” And I remember the day I got my phone and I started using it and I realized, now it’s like, “I’m addicted to it.” I wish I didn’t have a phone. I miss being so innocent without my phone and being able to really appreciate everything. I wish that about this time, ‘cause it’s very different. In the show that all the kids use walkie talkies to talk to each other, and that sounds so cool. I would love to be able to talk to my friends with walkie talkies.
GD (Matt): Yeah, you would not have been able to do an interview with an actor from “Stranger Things” in the ‘80s via a webchat. You would’ve had to go and meet the star from “Stranger Things” to talk with them.
GD (Rob): So speaking of winning things, from my previous question, after “Stranger Things” dropped on Netflix we started getting a lot of tweets about, “Noah Schnapp, he’s got a much bigger role,” and “Wow, what an amazing performance.” We’ve all be hearing about it and talking about it and we’re in award season now so there’s some talk that you may get some attention like Millie did last year as the breakout from Season 1. What does that mean to you to have people talk about your performance in that way?
NS: I don’t know, I feel so honored. I’m just a kid and I remember we all worked so hard on this season and I was really lucky to have the role written for me so well and I had a big challenge this season. It was a lot to face and I remember the Duffers said in an interview, I was very young and they didn’t want to tell me the whole season relied on me, ‘cause they didn’t want to put a lot of pressure, but I kind of realized that after watching the show and just seeing the stuff I did, I was very proud of it. I’m so lucky to be able to have such a great response. Whatever happens in the awards season I’m grateful for how great of a response my acting got this season.
GD (Matt): How have you found the whole reception to “Stranger Things” on the awards circuit? It did very well at the Emmys this year, won quite a lot of Emmys, got nominated in a lot of other categories. You guys won the Screen Actors Guild for Best Ensemble last year, for a show with so many young actors was a bit surprising whether that would get respected and it did. How’s the industry and awards circuit for someone your age?
NS: First of all, I love going to those award shows. I remember when I was 6, 7 years old I’d go in my bed at 10 ’o’ clock with my mom and watch the award shows all the way through and I remember thinking the whole time watching them, I was like, “I wonder if I was on that stage. What if I was up there? What if I was up there making a speech about an award I won? How cool would that be?” I feel so lucky that now I get to go to all these award shows and I get to meet all these amazing actors that I look up to. And when we won the SAG Award, I got to stand on that stage and accept an award and it was so cool. I remember, I was so crazy after we won that award. I remember we went in the back and there was this room, my mom had to sign something so I could get the award and I couldn’t find my mom and I was going crazy. I was like, “I have to get this, I don’t know what to do!” I was hyperventilating and I was running all around looking for my mom and I found her and I grabbed her and she was like, “No, what is wrong with you?” ‘Cause I was going crazy. And I had her sign this sheet and I took the award and I held it like a baby all night and I still keep it in front of my bed so when I wake up I can see it every morning.
GD (Rob): Noah, so given that Will has been the war, he’s just been through anything you could possibly throw at this kid, what are you hoping for Will in Season 3 of “Stranger Things?” I know you can’t give spoilers but what would you like to see for this guy?
NS: That’s a great question. Honestly after watching Season 1 I didn’t know where they would go with the show and with Will because it kind of ended on a, “Okay it’s over.” Not everything but most of it was pretty much solved and I had no clue where they would go with the season and I feel the same way about the second season. I’m really hoping that Eleven and my character get to have an interaction in Season 3 because I’ve been dying to have scenes with Eleven, and I hope that Hopper, if I live with Eleven, then that means I live with Hopper too and then maybe Joyce will date Hopper?
GD (Rob): Very good I love that.
GD (Matt): From two years of “Stranger Things,” Noah, what is your favorite scene or moment from the show?
NS: Oh, I have a few. I really love the scene where Eleven flips the van in front of them because that was just such a cool scene. I’ve heard so many stories about them filming that scene. But I also had a lot of fun filming… it was the very first scene of the very first season. It was just ‘cause we were all getting to know each other and it was very relaxed, we were all laughing every take and I remember I had a lot of fun filming that scene. But I think my favorite scene out of the whole season to film, my favorite scene to watch was definitely with Winona where I was very emotional. I just always replay that scene because I’m proud of it. There’s a few. I think also the scene where I’m in the field yelling at the monster to go away, I really loved that scene. And also the dance, the dance at the end of the season I really loved.
GD: Yes, where “Zombie Boy” became a term of endearment rather than a tease. Well Noah, thank you for talking to us today about “Stranger Things.” It’s been such a pleasure and all the best on the awards circuit with everything that’s gonna come your way.
NS: Thank you very much, guys. Pleasure talking to you.